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Sierra Schupp

North Carolina State University, MS
Carl J. Apicella Scholar 2019

Methane Production and Microbial Ecology of Solid Waste in Elevated Temperature Landfills (ETLFs)Project Description:
As solid waste anaerobically decomposes in a landfill, methane gas is produced and often captured. It is generally accepted that landfills operate optimally at mesophilic temperatures (around 37°C). In addition to threatening the infrastructure of a landfill, elevated temperatures are presumed to inhibit methane generation. However, there is evidence that microbial communities present in waste are able to adapt and sustain methanogenesis as temperatures rise in landfills. This research project aims to evaluate the temperature range for methane production in landfills exhibiting elevated temperatures. In concurrence, this work will elucidate the microbial ecology of solid waste in elevated temperature landfills.

Sierra started her undergraduate degree in Environmental Engineering at North Carolina State University in 2014 and graduated in 2018. As an undergraduate student, she worked on research projects related to wastewater treatment before starting a research internship at EREF. Her research focused on two important studies: 1)  analyzing solid waste management and recovery data to determine trends at the state level and 2) evaluating alternate inocula for biochemical methane potential testing of commercially available plastics reported to exhibit biodegradability. She continued her research in solid waste management while at NC State and is now working towards a MS degree in Environmental Engineering with an expected graduation in 2020. She is President of the Air & Waste Management Association student chapter at NC State and hopes to encourage involvement in the field of solid waste on all educational levels.